Putting Your Best Foot Forward With Care
By Pete Alfano
Our feet are the subject of numerous jokes and puns. For instance: Did you hear about the person who injured his feet while in the middle of the road? He had to call a toe truck. We have expressions such as putting your foot in your mouth, being swept off your feet, footing the bill, and getting your feet wet.
So, why is it that many of us don’t pay enough attention to foot care? We walk on our feet every day, averaging more than 5,000 steps and our feet are responsible for carrying our weight from the time we take our first steps.
Taking your feet for granted can lead to many issues, from painful bunions, callouses, and ingrown nails to infections such as athlete’s foot and toenail fungus. And aching feet can alter how we walk, affecting our legs, knees, hips, and lower back.
Persistent foot pain shouldn’t be ignored. A podiatrist can determine the source of the pain and treat it. This is especially true for people with diabetes, who are more at risk for foot problems because the disease causes nerve damage, resulting in numbness and tingling in the feet. Foot care starts with what we put on our feet.
We weren’t born wearing shoes, so let’s start there. Wear comfortable shoes that let your feet breathe. It’s a matter of comfort over style. Wearing stylish footwear may get you compliments about how your shoes look, but your feet may be barking at you. Also, don’t just wear your favorite shoes every day. Have at least two or three pairs to choose from.
And, yes, women who wear heels regularly are putting an undue amount of stress on their toes and balls of their feet. Another no-no is wearing flip-flops or similar flat shoes that lack arch support for an extended period. Avoid wearing flip-flops on long walks.
Now, do you wash your face regularly? Do you use a mild soap for your face and a moisturizer? Well, that is what you should be doing for your feet. Standing in the shower and getting your feet wet isn’t washing your feet. Make sure you wash them with soap and warm water. Use a moisturizer to keep your feet soft.
You don’t have to get a pedicure to keep your toenails trimmed. Do it yourself and use a pumice stone to shave calluses. If your feet are prone to sweating, using foot powder will help keep them dry. And never go barefoot in the locker room and shower at a fitness club.
When should you make an appointment with a podiatrist? If you develop a virus such as warts or infections such as athlete’s foot or a toenail fungus. Although over-the-counter options may help if you have a toenail fungus, they can be stubborn and require prescription topical treatments or pills.
A podiatrist will also help if you have structural problems with your feet. You may be fitted with orthotics for more support. And don’t ignore lumps under your feet or any swelling. It may not be because you are on your feet most of the day. Remember, we couldn’t walk without our feet.
Because we weren’t born wearing shoes, are there benefits to going barefoot, at least when you are home?
Don’t look for a definitive answer from the medical community. On the one hand, walking barefoot can improve your balance, strengthen the muscles in your legs, give you better control of your feet as they hit the ground, and give your feet some needed breathing room after wearing shoes all day. As Healthline.com points out, toddlers learn to walk while barefoot.
And yet, there is a school of thought that discourages going barefoot. It exposes your feet to bacteria on the floor and carpet in your house. They are more susceptible to infections and injuries like stubbed toes. You can also easily suffer cuts, blisters, and bruises, especially if you walk barefoot outdoors.
Socks may not be a good compromise because they may increase the chances of slipping and sliding. Like just about everything else in life, if you go barefoot, do it in moderation.